Representative Wayne Krieger in Oregon thinks they should. He says that with so much money being spent on bike infrastructure in Oregon , that it is time cyclists paid their "fair share." He told Jonathan Maus of BikePortland:
"This is an opportunity for the bicyclists to start contributing to our roads," he said. "If you want to have something that everybody is going to use, than everybody needs to contribute to what's there if there were not bicycles we wouldn't need bicycle lanes."
Others think he is nuts.
Mary Catherine O'Connor of TriplePundit does a good roundup of the discussion:
A Portland bike blog interviewed the lawmaker in question, who explained the proposal this way: "[B]ikes have used the roads in this state forever and have never contributed a penny. The only people that pay into the system are those people who buy motor vehicle licenses and registration fees." Considering the enormous benefits of investments in bicycle infrastructure, can even a tax-hating bicyclist concede his point, at a registration cost of just over 7 cents a day?
Zak Frechette at Good Magazine:
I subscribe to the idea that we should tax things we want less of, not more of....We want more bike riders. Lots more (they're super-efficient, in case you hadn't heard). And we want fewer cars on the road (they're not great for the environment). It seems obvious, then, that the burden of improving bike infrastructure should be placed on motorists. This would have the dual effect of discouraging driving and encouraging cycling. Krieger's law is the opposite of that. So while $54 every two years is a teensy-tiny sum, if it discourages even a single person from trading in four wheels for two, it seems like a mistake. Krieger says "If a small fee discourages something, I would suggest they probably aren't very ardent to the cause to start with." To him I say: go soak your head.
Mary at Triplepunditconcludes:
A much easier financial pill to shallow would be an excise tax on all new bike sales. That's the route that Colorado Springs chose, way back in 1988. It levies a $4 fee on each bike sold in the city, but then uses that money specifically for improving the biking infrastructure. This means that only those buying new bikes pay the fee, which seems fair, and it avoids the huge program fees that would come with charging ongoing licensing and registration fees.
I agree with Zak: the point of promoting cycling is to get cars off the road, get a healthier and fitter population, and reduce damage to our infrastructure. The usual way to get people to do good things is to give incentives. The usual way to stop people from doing bad things like smoking and drinking is to tax them more. In Ontario, Canada, they removed the sales tax on bikes and helmets, reducing the cost of bikes by 8%. In the UK they reduce taxes on bikes. As Zak so eloquently put it: Go soak your head.